Letters and Sounds: What does the latest government policy mean for your school?

The DfE recently announced that they won’t be publishing a revised version of Letters and Sounds, but what does this mean for schools in England?

What’s the story?

Letters and Sounds was originally published by the Department for Education back in 2007. It was a framework rather than a full systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) programme: no resources or decodable books were published alongside it. Over time, schools developed their own teaching programmes based on the Letters and Sounds progression, or chose an alternative programme such as Floppy’s Phonics or Read Write Inc. Phonics. Between 2011 and 2014, the DfE asked publishers to submit their programmes for ‘validation’ to prove that they had met a set of government criteria.

Letters and Sounds wasn’t updated along with the National Curriculum in 2014. So, in need of a refresh, the UK Government had considered developing a full programme around the Letters and Sounds framework. However, at the end of March this year, the DfE announced that they won’t be publishing a full Letters and Sounds programme, or an updated progression. 

However, they will be reopening the validation process, so anyone creating phonics programmes can apply for them to be validated. This will eventually result in an updated list of approved providers being finalised in March 2022. Until that point all the existing validated providers will remain validated until they submit their programmes for re-validation. Because Letters and Sounds never was a full programme, it will not appear on this validated list.

What does it mean for your school?

Essentially, by not making changes to the 2007 Letters and Sounds, the Government has put schools and phonics experts in charge. But this doesn’t mean that you need to make any drastic changes. If you have high-quality phonics provision based on the Letters and Sounds progression, you can continue to use it. If you are using Read Write Inc. Phonics or Floppy’s Phonics as your SSP programme, you can confidently continue to use these too.

If your current phonics provision is based on Letters and Sounds, your decodable reading books will need to align with the phonics progression. So our range of finely-levelled decodable books, created by experts and aligned to the Letters and Sounds framework, are still the perfect way for you to build children’s reading confidence and success. What’s more, our eBook Library for Letters and Sounds is organised and searchable by Letters and Sounds Phases and Sets, so that you can find books at exactly the right level to match your children’s stage of learning to read.

You can get a useful overview of all our phonics support here.

If you need any further support with phonics we’re here to help. So whether you’re already using Oxford programmes and resources for your phonics teaching, or you’re looking for new ways to support phonics learning, please get in touch.